The Forest Legacy Program allows for the donation and/or purchase of conservation easements or fee simple land from willing participants who wish to keep the land in forestry use. Landowners continue to own their land and use the property at their discretion.
The majority of Georgia’s productive forest lands are in private ownership, but these private landowners are facing increased pressure to convert their forest lands to other uses. Georgia has identified areas that have multiple public benefits such as water quality protection, key fish and wildlife habitats, and outstanding recreation opportunities or scenic views, while providing the opportunity to continue traditional forest uses such as timber harvesting and wildlife management. Important aspects of the program include:
- Landowners may continue to own their land or sell it to someone who wants undeveloped forestland.
- The State holds title to the Forest Legacy conservation easements and provides technical advice to landowners.
- Landowners who donate a conservation easement are eligible for certain Federal and State income tax credits.
- Priority is given to lands that can be effectively protected and managed.
- Public access is not required, but can be allowed if the landowner chooses.
- A written forest management plan is developed by GFC to address the landowner’s specific goals.
WFCEs do more than strip specified development rights from a property. Traditional conservation easements, sometimes called “open space” or “no build” or “scenic” easements, remove landowners’ rights to engage in certain activities, such as mining, subdivision, and residential and commercial development. These easements may not mention forestry at all, or may simply allow timber harvesting according to “good practices” with no additional detail.
Who administers the program?
GFC administers the Forest Legacy Program through a grant from the USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry branch. For the purchase of easements or land, grants are awarded on a competitive basis and are based on a national priority ranking of projects. Any interested landowner can contact PGFC’s program manager, Buford Sanders, to obtain further information.
|Forest Legacy – Assessment of Needs|
This assessment documents the need for a Forest Legacy Program in Georgia; identifies and delineates the boundaries of forest areas meeting the eligibility
|Forest Legacy Areas (2016 Map)|
|Georgia’s Forest Legacy Program Brochure|
The Forest Legacy Program protects environmentally important working forests threatened by conversion to non-forest uses. GFC assists private landowners with technical advice in forest management and by holding conservation easements that support working forests.
|The Value of Conservation Easements in Georgia|
Intact forestlands provide numerous benefits. However, as these areas are fragmented and disappear, so do the irreplaceable benefits they provide. The donated conservation easement, then, is the most logical legal tool to secure long-term conservation in Georgia.